Greece faces millions in fines over waste water
Brussels — Cash-strapped Greece should be fined millions of euros for failing to adequately handle urban waste water, the European Commission said yesterday, as it referred the case to court.
Greece is one of the countries worst hit by Europe’s economic crisis, requiring two international bailouts since 2010. “The commission is of course fully aware of the difficult situation facing Greece,” said Pia Ahrenkilde, a spokeswoman for the European Union’s executive.
“But (it) believes that not making this investment now in urban waste water treatment would ultimately entail even higher costs to Greece in the future,” she added. The commission is asking the European Court of Justice to apply an 11.5-million-euro, lump-sum fine, along with a daily penalty of 47,462 euros until Greece complies.
The EU’s top court had warned Athens already in 2007 that it was running afoul of the rules, with 23 agglomerations in the country lacking appropriate waste water collection and treatment systems.
Today, six agglomerations still fail to comply with EU standards, the commission said. Construction work on waste water plants are underway in some of them, but two of the communities have yet to even agree on a location for such a facility.
Under EU rules, all construction should have been done in 2005.
“The lack of treatment in these agglomerations means that the health of residents is being put at risk, as untreated waste water can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses,” the commission said, noting also that it could affect tourism — a key industry in Greece.
The country was also referred to the Luxembourg-based EU court yesterday over its doctors’ working hours, although the commission did not yet request a fine in this case.